IN a stunning turn of events for troubled PAULA DEEN, a simple fall in the kitchen has triggered a potentially deadly health problem for the southern cooking queen!

Deen, 67, tripped over her new golden doodle puppy Gus while whipping up treats in her Savannah, Ga., home on Palm Sunday and broke her left ankle in three places. That caused immediate concern because the injury will interfere with the critical exercise program she uses to battle her weight and diabetes.

The former Food Network star was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2009. The condition can be life-threatening, but Paula got on the right track for health by embarking on a rigorous program of diet moderation and strenuous daily 30-minute treadmill exercise. And she managed to peel 60 pounds off her bulky figure.

As The ENQUIRER recently reported, stress prompted her to start boozing and binge-eating again, and she piled on 40 pounds. But at least she continued her daily exercise routine. Now, she is forced to wear a heavy boot cast from her toes up to her left knee. It will make Paula’s treadmill workouts im­possible – perhaps for months.

“Her injury may reverse what­ever positive lifestyle changes she made,” Dr. Daniel Lorber, a New York-based endocrinologist and di­abetes expert, told The ENQUIRER. Dr. Lorber, who did not treat Deen, notes that Paula’s diabetes may even be responsible for her fall.

“Many diabetics suffer injuries because of neuropathy and can’t feel their feet, so they trip and injure their ankle,” he explained. “If she reverts to her old eating patterns, her blood sugar can spike dangerously. Not only will this affect her health, but it will delay healing in her foot.”